Whooping crane recovering at refuge in Meigs County

photo A whooping crane stands in the middle of a group of sandhill cranes at the TWRA Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. TWRA photo
Arkansas-LSU Live Blog

An injured whooping crane is recuperating at the Hiwassee State Wildlife Refuge in Meigs County, according to a news release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The female crane was captured Jan. 26 outside Miami after someone reported that she was limping.

The crane was taken to Disney's Animal Kingdom, where veterinarians discovered that her right middle toe had become infected after an injury. Veterinarians amputated the toe and kept the crane in isolation. When treating the bird, they were in costume and did not use human voices.

"The longer you hold a bird, the tamer it can become," said Billy Brooks, the whooping crane coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "We have to keep them as wild as possible."

The endangered bird was released Saturday at the Hiwassee refuge and reportedly is doing well.

"She looks like she is adapting to walking on her foot after toe surgery," said Eve Szyszkoski of the International Crane Foundation. "She is not even limping now, and she is flying well."

The crane is one of just 111 whooping cranes in the Eastern migratory population. She was first released into the wild in October 2012 and joined five other young cranes for migration.

Whooping cranes were on the verge of extinction in the 1940s. Today, only about 600 birds exist, with about 445 of those living in the wild.